I know it’s a little early but the coming weeks will be very busy for us on the network. We’ll be with our families and catching up on projects here and there.. Don’t worry: while we may not be streaming, blogging, or podcasting much, we’ll be here in spirit.. And probably watching lots of horror movies and shows. I know I will be watching American Horror Story and maybe Sleepy Hollow with my wife. YAY!
I’m still on that Walker Stalker Con high but, sadly, I can’t enjoy it as much. Duty calls as projects pile up and my family prepares to move… But enough about me!
Here are a few videos that cover the highlights at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta 2014. If you’ve never been to WSC, you’ll know what to expect. If you went last year, you can get a feel for what has changed. Read onward for some highlights and the burning question:
Is Walker Stalker Con [or conventions in general] a mere money grab?
I want to say that I really enjoyed the convention but, as with anything else, there were opportunities. We’ll get into that after the “video break”. Sit tight, friends!
HorsePLAY! LIVE EP45: Walker Stalker Con Post-Show
The GANG Minute / Geektastic Vlog Mashup: My Personal WSC Highlights & Concerns
On-Location At AmericasMart Atlanta: Walker Stalker Con Fan Reactions & Event Photos
Walker Stalker Con was a fun event to go to as a fan and there was plenty to cover as media. There were tons of panels, celebrities, vendors, and other attractions. WAY too much to cover in proper detail. Here are the main things that stood out for me.
Before I share my impressions and opinions here, I want to note that this was my first Walker Stalker Con but I have been to many conventions. Typically, conventions are forgettable to me but WSC has something special to it. I believe my feelings here may be in the minority because I don’t get excited by autographs and star-studded events. Before I share my thoughts, here is what I look for in a convention to consider it worthwhile:
- You’ll enjoy the event regardless of how much money you spend.
- Vendors get enough foot traffic to justify booth costs.
- Autographs and photo ops are subsidized or minimal to provide more time/focus for other events.
- Event schedules account for waiting/travel times, breaks, and the like.
- Merch mark-up covers costs but does not exhibit extreme profit margins (i.e. greed).
- It is clear that fans of all kinds are the priority.
- Media is given proper access and treatment without taking away from paying guests.
- Behind-the-scenes information and anecdotes.. Stories worth sharing!
These are some of the things I’ll be pondering as I share my thoughts on Walker Stalker Con Atlanta. Now let’s jump in!
Fantastic Panels & Topics Get Us Thinking
Greg Nicotero’s KNB EFX panel might have been my favorite panel of all the big ones; that is, the panels in the dedicated space. Greg Nicotero somehow managed to engage the audience in meaningful ways, even when speaking with the other panelists and moderators. The sad part was that this panel was scheduled early in the day. It was nice to sit close but it sucked that he got what was essentially the chump time slot, considering many of us felt like zombies every morning. The daily events went LONG, folks!
I did manage to take copious notes during the panel but, for the sake of brevity, I will share just a few highlights. Greg Nicotero directed Episode 12 of The Walking Dead Season 5. He is particularly proud of this one and says it has some of the best zombie effects the show has seen yet. All I will say is “rotisserie chicken”.
Fans of Breaking Bad may not know this fun little tidbit: Greg directed the cutting scene with Gus during the episode “Box Cutter”. Back to The Walking Dead, Greg Nicotero said that Andy Lincoln really enjoyed the throat-biting scene. They used raw steak to increase realism. Andy said he “wanted more”. What a professional!
There were just too many great moments during this panel. Suffice to say: Greg is the man!
The Zombie Ethics panel returned this year with the author of Survivor Max, David Barker, and the host of the podcast Walking Deadcast (I believe that’s him). The author was particularly entertaining as he kept plugging his book and getting into some uber nerdy concepts. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising considering Prepper Press specializes in dystopian fiction and survival non-fiction.
Ethics and morality always make for great conversations and debates. Throw in zombies and the discussion is even more entertaining. One of the most fascinating notions centered around discerning whether or not zombies are conscious/sentient and if it is fair to de-humanize them. This brought us to animal cruelty (a very sensitive subject for me) and other critical issues. I’d love to go deep on zombie ethics here at Geeky Antics so please comment with your thoughts on what is right or wrong in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic world.
The fine YouTubers at Zombie Go Boom had several panels throughout the weekend. The event schedule was so packed that I was only able to squeeze in one but it was well worth it. I enjoyed the less packed panels because there was meaningful interaction. The unfortunate thing is that the most popular panels saw too many teeny boppers saying it was their birthday and requesting hugs/kisses. It was cute at first but… Yeeeeeaaah.
Zombie Go Boom is like Mythbusters with a focus on survival skills and zombies. AT first, I thought these guys were purely about the gore and visceral experiences but they really knew their stuff. They’re taking a scientific approach when testing out weapons and various zombie/survival scenarios.
I particularly appreciated that this panel was not a mere self-promotion platform. They clearly enjoy the subject matter and know their stuff. What’s neat is that you can buy many of the weapons they test out in their YouTube videos from the official Zombie Go Boom online store.
Vendors Need Love Too!
Vendors got the worst end of the deal at WSC. I spoke with several vendors including Starbase 1552, Paintings By Dimitri Walker, Unlikely Heroes, and Chris Seckinger & Angela Hammond of CONjuration. They did well in sales but it was relatively bad when compared to other conventions.
The issue many cited was that the foot traffic was concentrated too much around autographs and photo ops. Hardcore fans waited on lines for two hours or more just for brief face time with the celebrities. Many fans reported that, even after the long waits, photos and autographs were rushed. This left WSC fans frustrated and broke. After spending anywhere from $200-2000 early in the event, people just weren’t in the mood to give the vendors love.
Chris and Angela, two self-proclaimed geeks in the Atlanta, GA area, stated that there is a huge difference between a geeky convention and an autograph event. Angela emphatically stated,
Walker Stalker Con is NOT a geeky event.
Geeky events and autograph events.. Are they mutually exclusive? That is a matter of debate but, clearly, focusing on financial gain means that the fans come second.. Or third.
To address these issues, Chris and Angela have put together CONjuration this OCtober 31-November 2 in Atlanta, GA. CONjuration will be at the Marriott Perimeter Center in Atlanta. I wish I could make it because it’s clear that this will be an event built around geeky meetups, fun activities, and unique attractions. They have some guests lined up but the focus is on the fans.
I feel that vendors need to be empowered to succeed. Convention booths cost money and, even if you get them cheap, the time spent trying to break a profit or at least recover costs can make it less attractive. The organizers behind Walker Stalker Con did front-load vendors in the main areas but they were still set up to fail to a degree. The worst part was the scheduling: there were too many great things happening at once, which meant vendors got pushed down on the to-do list again and again.
Is Walker Stalker Con Just A Money Grab?
Autographs at Walker Stalker Con ranged from $40 to $100 a pop! Imagine the folks getting 10 autographs or more. If they want them certified/validated, that’s even more. We won’t even get into the photo ops and the Platinum VIP passes which, together, cost WSC guests $1200 or more.
Official event merchandise saw a mark-up of around 150-300% easily. Walker Stalker Con is not cheap if you want to walk away with some goodies. Free SWAG (Stuff We All Get)? There wasn’t much of it.
If you look all the price tags, it’s easy to feel Walker Stalker Con has become a money grab. Many geeks I am close to feel conventions become just that. I don’t see anything wrong with seeking profit or making conventions sustainable to the point of being able to live off the income.. But excessive greed does ruin the spirit of conventions, especially when they are billed as “fan events”.
For me, the biggest WSC highlights were outside of the paid events and premium items. When things chilled down a bit, I got to chat with Chad Coleman and Howard Sherman, both of whom were wonderful human beings. I did appreciate that, as media, we were able to enter the event space before and after official start/end times. This gave us a little wiggle room. We were able to shake hands, take some unobstructed photos, and set up some meetings/interviews. During peak hours, this was darn near impossible, even if you set things up in advance.
Chad Coleman a.k.a. Tyreese was really cool. I told him we need to petition to keep him on the show because he is exactly what Rick’s group needs. Calling his character a pansy is unfair. He is compassionate but I feel he will make tough decisions when it really counts. Chad has a firm handshake and a warm smile.. A real man’s man.
There were plenty of random zombies wandering about. I intended to take more photos with/of them but, again, the schedule was WAY too tight. Still, the shot above is pretty priceless. I look like I’m pooping myself.
I can’t say enough nice things about Howard Sherman. It was serendipitous that he ended up asking me for directions. Towards the end of the con, we chatted a bit and I never once felt he was rushing me along or disinterested. We’re keeping the communication lines open so we can interview him for our podcasts. I love this guy and not just because he was Bub the Zombie from Day of the Dead.
Meeting my friends from Zombie Cast and the AllGames Radio Network was awesome. It was all about the late-night fun. I got the chance to meet so many interesting people. Heck, even on the last day of the con, I got together with some random walker stalkers. On Sunday, we were up until like five in the morning – INSANE!
To me, a good convention helps facilitate these sorts of things. Walker Stalker Con completely succeeded there. We all walked away with great memories and felt we got our money/time’s worth. As media, we did not pay for entry but access was very limited. If I had to pay, I think I would have approached the convention completely different and maybe not have enjoyed it as much.
Was Walker Stalker Con worth the money? YES! But, and there is a BIG but (and I cannot lie): bring or meet up with some friends. This will help mitigate the inevitable disappointments. There were some serious issues with lack of organization at this event but I am open-minded and write this off as growing pains.. Others were not so kind.
My final verdict is that Walker Stalker Con will only get better.. But don’t expect the “all access” feeling of the first run.. And don’t go with limited available funds.
Closing Thoughts: Building A Truly Geeky Convention
My thoughts are that conventions are only as good as the people that show up.. And I don’t mean celebrities. Celebrities are great for autograph events but, to me, conventions should be different from expos and conferences. They should be about the fans, not the brands and products.
It’s ironic that folks call conventions “cons” for short… It just sucks when they end up being just that. I don’t think Walker Stalker Con was a bad deal for consumers but there were certain issues that could have been easily avoided if they subsidized some of the offerings through sponsors and collaborations. Communication could have been much better, too, and many of the major problems boiled down to miscommunication.
I go back to what Chris and Angela have envisioned for a geeky convention and it excites me because that is what I would like to see. They’ve been on the convention circuit for a long time so they know what separates “decent” from “AWESOME”. We both feel people abuse the popularity of their events to have bigger pay days, which is a slap in the face to your everyday geeks who can’t afford thousands or hundreds of dollars for a single event. Again, profiting is fine but don’t get greedy.
Lower prices means more people can check out your event and spread the word. Collective economics, kids – it works!
What would you like to see in a better convention? What makes it a truly geeky event? Leave us some comments!